U.S. Men's National Team

Arena looking to reward MLS standouts with call to USMNT camp

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

A normal U.S. Men’s National Team camp contains around 25 players, a solid number for extended training sessions and, ultimately, a set of friendlies. However, for his first gathering in charge, Bruce Arena expanded the list of players to 32 because he wanted to reward the contingent of Major League Soccer stars for their terrific domestic campaigns.

“Thirty-two is a big number for sure,” Arena said in a Facebook video conference on Thursday. “Typically in camps you’d be in the twenties. As we evaluated the players in Major League Soccer, I thought there were a number of players that needed to be rewarded and that’s why we’ve invited this large number in the camp. We think these are the players that should be rewarded for the seasons they had in Major League Soccer.” 

One of the positions Arena would like to get more answers at is left back, where the USMNT has struggled in the last year or two. There are three options for Arena to choose from for the friendlies against Serbia on January 29 and Jamaica on Feb. 3.

On the other side of the defense, Arena will experiment with Graham Zusi at right back. Zusi played one game on the right side of defense for Sporting Kansas City during the 2016 season.

“I think that’s a real competitive position and a position we need some answers for,” Arena said. “We’ve invited DaMarcus Beasley, Taylor Kemp and Greg Garza and we’re hopeful they answer some of the questions that we do have at that position.

“We have a talented group in midfield and Graham can still help our team as a right back and we’re going to give it a shot in January,” Arena added. “He’s talented and we think he’s a player that can adapt to that position and help our team.” 

Although there are plenty of new faces in the January camp, Arena noted not many of them will break into the 23-man squad for the March CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches against Panama and Honduras.

“At any time you want to look at new faces, we’re looking at some in this camp,” Arena said. “However, when we get to March and the qualifiers there, we’re not going to be experimenting and looking at many new players.

“If there’s an option in 2017 to look at some new young players, it would be in January camp and perhaps in July for the Gold Cup,” Arena said. “Our team is fairly set. There’s going to be some new faces along the way, but I don’t think too many radical changes.”

A few players in the January camp who are expected to be in the 23-man squad in March are Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris. Arena plans to use both in similar ways with the depth chart becoming crowded at forward.

Regardless of who Arena starts in 2017, he made it clear what his goal is and what style he wants the Yanks to play as they rebound from a disappointing 2016 campaign that ended with two losses in the Hex to Mexico and Costa Rica.

“My goal is very clear: it’s to qualify our team for Russia 2018,” Arena said. “If we can do more in terms of developing some more talent, we want to do that during 2017 as well. But the primary goal is to get this team qualified for Russia.

“We want to be aggressive,” Arena added. “When we have the ball, we want to be aggressive moving forward. When our opponents have the ball, we want to get around it real quick and try to get it back. We lost some of that aggressiveness in the qualifying games and want to build on that as we begin the camp.” 

  • I scored three goals in one game

    Oh no Bruce how could u play a player out of position, that’s just insane fire him now.


  • usfan123

    A moment I saw Rongen on US staff, I knew Bruce will make no different than JK. Sorry fans, no hope for MNT. It’s time for quitting soccer !!!


  • bizzy

    “…looking to reward MLS standouts with call to USMNT camp”.
    Finally a coach that knows that its about performance and how to motivate players, with the notion of hard work pays off.


    • recovered amishman

      hmm… well, there is the notion that January camp is to look at new talent…calling in Rosenberry, Lletget, etc. makes sense, but McCarty, Marshall and Feilhaber are hardly going to light the USMNT on fire and all of those guys are well-known to Arena already. But, whatever. Got to keep the MLS homers happy so lard up a meaningless camp with 32 people, actually look at and evaluate 22 or 23, and pretend everyone was there on equal footing. It’s smart politics, but is it smart coaching? How much of a distraction will it be?


  • two cents / lowercase letters guy

    almost like it never happened.

    back to normal again.



  • johnnyrazor

    So basically Bruce said, he’s going to be using the same core group of players for competitive matches and that he’s going to play Zusi at RB because he’s one of the more talented players we have and can play more than one position, but he thinks he can be good at a position he’s played once.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Atx_Colin

    Dude hasnt even coached a game yet, yall need to chill out. Looking at Zusi at RB makes a lot of sense, J/K is gone let it go,


    • Mac

      Not directly at you, but more toward people who criticized JK… why is it ok for Arena to consider Zusi for fullback, a position he literally has a handful of caps in and a position of depth (albeit in Europe so not available), but its an outrage the way JK used FabJo, who at least has over half his career caps playing fullback, and in a position of desperate need for the US?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nick

        Because JK plays so many players out of position, out of their “comfort zone” with no clear direction vs a BA who will be very focused with very clear tactical instructions and positional roles. In the few instances where someone is going to play a different position, it will be because they can meet a specific role for the team rather than JKs throw them out onto the field and see if they stick.


      • Mac

        Name me a time JK threw someone in a position aimlessly.

        Jones to CB? JK wanted a ball playing CB that can deliver passes from the back. We have precious few CB’s that can do that. It didn’t work

        Bedoya at DM? Bedoya was the 8 paired with Jones the 6 in a 4-2-3-1. Bedoya can’t play the box-to-box role the way Lampard played at Chelsea? Obviously not (or at least he can’t against someone like Brazil). JK went ultra attack mode against Brazil in a completely meaningless friendly and it backfired. Big Deal.

        Or how about everyones favorite… FabJo at fullback. The guy has literally half is club caps at fullback. And JK likes his fullbacks to provide the width on attack, which is why he loves guys like Yedlin, Chandler, Fabian, and didn’t use guys like Cameron who at the time was a week in, week out starter at RB in the during Pulis-era Stoke.


  • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

    Waaaah. Wow, the whining, but I feel like there is more out there. Someone bring up Gulati. Someone work Fredy Adu into the conversation.


    • johnnyrazor

      Since the switch from NASL to USL for Tampa Bay, Freddy Adu is out of contract, what MLS team should pick him up? And if he plays in friendlies for said MLS club should Bruce call him up for qualifiers in March? (How’s that? The first sentence is true, the second is complete fantasy)


  • Phil in Wilmington

    Speaking of GKs, is Sean Johnson hurt, or has is stock just fallen that far being at Chicago all these years? Hopefully he’s healthy and some time at NYCFC will turn his fortunes around.


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